Those supporting properly independent regulation of the press will have known yesterday, if they had not been so sure until then, that their efforts had supporters of the status quo seriously worried. That was when the panic button was pressed and Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan was summoned to administer another of his crude and dishonest hatchet jobs.
And he slips in a whopper even before the start of the article, asserting that Hacked Off “has cleverly used victims to further its agenda, which is to force the press to the Left”. Yes, it’s not a politically partisan group, so it just has to be a bunch of, er, politically partisan people. And then there has to be a false equivalence, for which the convenient scapegoat is the deeply subversive Guardian.
Gilligan equates the wild accusations levelled at Alan Rusbridger and his team with the cross-party Royal Charter, on the grounds that both have been involved in calls for “state action”. This falls flat when one realises that it is not for the Government to direct the country’s law enforcement agencies as to who they should pursue. But it is their duty to answer the concerns of the electorate.
Then comes another false assertion: “the Government would be pressing ahead with its own royal charter, drawn up over late-night snacks in Mr Miliband’s office by the three main political parties and the pro-regulation Hacked Off campaign, but nobody from the press itself”. Hacked Off advised and no more, and they are pro-free press. And they also favour independent regulation.
This is followed in short order by telling that the press’ main objection is political interference (forgetting that their proposed “new regulator” would have allowed serving politicians to sit on it), which of course it is not. The main objection is not being able to bend a completely independent regulator to the press’ will. But Gilligan persists, and characteristically slips in a whopper to help matters along.
“The newspapers’ central concern ... was that the charter could be amended by politicians, effectively at will. (In theory, a high bar – a two-thirds majority of Parliament – is needed, but in practice this requirement is not entrenched and could be changed by a simple majority of MPs.)”. Bullshit. A two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament is exactly what it says on the tin.
One more porkie, perhaps? No problem: “Any new press regulator would not itself be part of the state, but it would have to conform to the criteria set down by the state in the royal charter”. He just can’t get it right, but then, that appears to be the whole idea. The Charter sets up a recognition panel to make sure any new regulator is doing its job properly. The panel would be independent.
Another Gilligan hatchet job falls apart under first scrutiny. No change there, then.